Jacob Zuma has chosen to jump before he was pushed, resigning rather than facing a no-confidence vote in a Parliament where his own party said it would vote with the opposition.
Zuma is not the first populist leader to be brought low by corruption allegations in recent years. In Brazil, former president Dilma Rousseff was the darling of the masses until the Petrobas scandal swallowed her and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Over in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, who faced a laundry list of graft charges, was finally brought low by a tax fraud conviction in 2013. From Turkey to Hungary to Venezuela, populist leaders face serious allegations of corruption.
There is a lesson here. Populists, many of whom come to power promising to end corruption, often end up becoming part of the problem. In fact, a Transparency International report released last year said populist leaders tend to be more corrupt. Which goes to show—ending corruption and crony capitalism is a matter of institutional reform. Quick-fix solutions don’t work.
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